Learning from the past- without hurting my future

May 13th, 2011  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, Personal Essays  |  4 Comments

This is something I’ve been grappling with a lot these days. Especially now that I’m really putting myself out there in the dating field and thinking about: What am I looking for? And what are my expectations?

One of my biggest rules is: I’m not going to your house, until I’m ready. And if that’s after the third date or the third month of us dating, I want the guy I’m seeing to respect that. This rule however, has been met with more resistance then you’d imagine. Guys hear that and they think that I’m a gold digger who just wants them to be taking me out all the time. But it’s not about spending money on me at all, its actually way deeper than that.

Like everyone I have a past, and yes my past shapes who I am today. And though I prefer telling other people’s stories, rather than my own, I feel this is something that has shaped me so much, it’s only right put it out there.

Back in the day I was very carefree. And at 16 years old– you couldn’t tell me nothing! I honestly thought I was invincible. And based on the risks I took… I kinda I think I was. You know what they say: God protects the innocent and the dumb. Thinking back now, I know an angel had to be watching over me.

Here are a few things (looking back) I can’t believe I did:

While walking down Fordham Road in the Bronx, random guys in cars would “holla” at my best friend and I and we- with little convincing- would just jump in for a ride. We’d talk and shoot the breeze with them for a while, until we “make them” (because we believed we had the power) drop us back in front of our homes.

I’d also meet guys on the train and let them follow me wherever I was going. I even brought a guy to rehearsal with me once, when I was acting in a youth theater group. Till this day I can’t live that down- my old cast mates still get on me for that decision.

And one of my most infamous choices at 16 was deciding I was grown enough to be with a 25 year old man. It was so easy back then. I saw him and thought he was the finest thing I ever laid my eyes on, and so I stared him down. Finally he said: What’s up shorty? I said: Nothing. What’s up with you? He said: You want to get out of here. I said: Sure! — And we were together for 5 years.

When we broke up (the first time) because he cheated on me, I was so ready to meet someone else. And even though I was in college at the time and working a part-time job, I didn’t think to look for a date at school or at work. I went back to what I knew. The block.

I soon met a guy on my way home from the train station. He told me he was new to the area, and pointed out his building as he walked me home. We exchanged numbers, and he called me that night. The following day he asked me to come to his house on my way home. I was all for it.

When I walked in his house– his mom and another woman I recognized from my neighborhood was there. I would say this made me more comfortable about being there, but honestly I was fine with being there either way. We all spoke for a while, and then they were on their way out.

Alone in the house I took my jacket off. I remember it was my Calvin Klein jean jacket that I’d just bought at an outlet mall in New Jersey. (I ended up wearing that thing out until it fell apart.) We sat and talked and then he asked me if I wanted something to drink. I said yes. He asked if I wanted to try this drink his mom makes. I said sure. He goes and gets a glass for both of us.

The drink was like a smoothie. And I didn’t really like it. But being polite I took a few more sips and held it. We talked for a while more. He told me he was back in school getting his GED. I told him that was great, better late then never and that I was majoring in Media Studies. I took another sip and put the drink down. He asked me if I didn’t like it. I lied and said its fine, I just needed to use the bathroom. When I stood up, I felt the weight of gravity pulling me back down. And my head was spinning.

I asked him where the bathroom was, and he showed me. I used the bathroom. Washed my hands and put water on my face. I knew something was not right. I’ve never done any drug, but I imagine the way I felt that day, is what being high feels like. I was ready to go.

I came out the bathroom and told him I got a call from my parents and needed to get home. He tried to convince me to stay. I was so scared. All I remember was heading for the door. He stopped me and asked if I was ok. I was almost in tears as I said yes, I just have to go. I remember the agitation on his face- like he was trying to decide if I was going to fall out in any second and if he should just force me to stay.

Finally the angel that protected me at 16 arrived and he opened the door. He tells me to get the f*** out of his house. Before I left, I remembered my jacket and I ran back for it before I ran out of his house. I cried all the way home and into the phone as I told my ex that a guy I met- drugged me. He calmed me down and asked for the guy’s phone number. I gave it to him. He then told me to drink some milk and go to bed. Apparently my ex called and threatened to hurt him and his future his grand kids if he ever spoke to me again. The worst part is I constantly ran into him after that day, and we just passed each other by. Like nothing happened.

I blamed myself for a while. If only I hadn’t gone to his house. If only I hadn’t drank the smoothie. If only I’d had a more graceful exit strategy. Now I know just how lucky I am, to have angels watching over me as, as:

  • The most common abuse patterns of date rape drugs is by the rapists slipping the drug into a victim’s drink (usually alcohol).
  • More than 75% of college students who experience unwanted intercourse are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the incident.
  • Two-thirds of rape victims between the ages of 18 and 29 know their attacker and over 60 percent of rapes occur in residences.

Now, I by no means believe that every guy that asks me to come over to their house wants to drug and do God-knows-what to me, but that experience has forever taught me that everyone brings their intentions to a situation– good or bad. And in order for me to know his intentions sync with mine, I have to get to know someone. On my time.

With that said, I still don’t want a bad past experience, to hurt a potentially great one.

  • Diana

    First off, I want to say you had your angel working hard and full time when you were younger.

    It seems like you're letting your past shape your present and future in some very important ways. You're more cautious and you take time to get to know a guy. That said, I wonder why you would be hanging out with a guy for 3 months you're still unsure of. 3 dates, a month, yes. But if you are still wary of a guy after 3 months and you think he might be up to no good if you went to his house, why would you still be hanging with him?

  • Ms. Veralyn

    Yes 3 months is a TOTAL exaggeration, I can't think of any situation in which I would even want to wait that long to see how someone is living. My point was just- as long as it takes. And yes my Angel was putting in major overtime looking after me back then :)

  • Mobilia5

    It sounds like you're on the right track, Veralyn! In my experience, the most important thing when something scary or painful happens to you is to make it a learning experience, which is exactly what you're doing. You're right to wait till you're comfortable to do pretty much anything, but you should also trust your instincts, which should be better honed thanks to your previous experiences. It is amazing the things we do when we're 16 and don't know any better, isn't it? :)

    That said, I think you know that you should not have to worry about something like this–none of it is YOUR fault! Not to say it's not worthwhile to learn from mistakes and try to avoid situations that could make you vulnerable to bad people, but it's important to remember that a huge proportion of women experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime in a vast array of circumstances, and the common thread is not the behavior of the assaulted, but rather the behavior of those who assault! They are the ones who should be forced to change their behavior.

    Well, that's my rant:) Thanks for sharing your story…

  • sense + sensuality

    I've made mistakes, major and minor, and of course hindsight is always 20/20. The way I keep them from hurting my future experiences is to really understand what made that past experience bad and if there's anything that I need to do differently when going forward.

    When dealing with guys, I've learned that if something doesn't feel right, then 9 times out of 10, it isn't but when you're a teenager, like you said you feel invincible. Just know that none of your situation was your fault. All anyone at the end of the day is use past experiences as a foundation to a better future.

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